Wootz is a very interesting type of steel. In a nutshell, wootz steel is made by smelting steel and a specific combination of trace elements in a crucible, and letting it cool slowly. The trace elements will form carbides that solidify first into a dendritic structure. After that, the steel itself will solidify. The result is a steel ingot with embedded dendritic carbide structures.
These structures have a very pleasing aesthetic rippling effect, and at the same time deliver a phenomenal cutting edge. Because the carbides are harder than hardened steel, they will wear away slower than the steel. The result is a cutting edge with microscopic serrations.
There are a lot of things we don't know about the origin of wootz steel. We do know that at some point in time, the process for making it got lost. Likely this happened when the ores that were used did not have the right content of trace elements anymore. A couple of decades ago, Alfred Pendray and J. D. Verhoeven successfully reproduced wootz steel, as did a handful of others. Wikipedia has an informative article on wootz.
I have 2 types of wootz.:
- wootz that was made by Alfred Pendray himself, in sizes sufficient to make either razors or knives. I only have a very limited amount of this, and when it's gone, it's gone.
- wootz made by a Belgian craftsman named Evrahim Baran.
Wootz is not a cheap material to work with. However it produces a very distinct and organic looking pattern in the steel, and the best cutting edge available.